Game Preview: Ohio State vs. USC in Cotton Bowl

Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins, top, celebrates his touchdown against Oklahoma during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)
Ohio State, USC coaches discuss Cotton Bowl matchup
Cotton Bowl Coaches presser
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Cotton Bowl: Southern California (11-2) vs. Ohio State (11-2), Friday, 8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Line: Ohio State by 7 1/2.

Series Record: USC leads 13-9-1.

WHAT'S AT STAKE

Playoff-snubbed Ohio State takes on USC in a throwback to Rose Bowls past. This is the eighth postseason meeting between the Buckeyes and Trojans and the first seven were all in the Rose Bowl, the last one 33 years ago. The Big Ten champion Buckeyes haven't lost more than two games in any of their six seasons under coach Urban Meyer. Pac-12 champion USC is trying to reach 12 wins for the first time since 2008.

KEY MATCHUP

All-America center Billy Price and Ohio State offensive line vs. USC front seven. The Buckeyes have allowed only 19 sacks, with one or none in six of the last eight games. The Trojans, with their 5-2 scheme, have 43 sacks. Four USC players have at least six sacks, led by All-Pac-12 defensive end Rasheem Green's nine.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Southern California: Third-year sophomore and top NFL prospect QB Sam Darnold could be playing his last game for the Trojans. In his two seasons at USC, he already has a Rose Bowl title and has thrown for 6,873 yards with 57 TDs and 21 interceptions. He has 17 TDs and four interceptions in the last eight games.

Ohio State: Freshman RB J.K. Dobbins has rushed for 1,364 yards and seven TDs. The Texas native had 174 yards rushing in the Big Ten title game, his sixth 100-yard game this season.

FACTS & FIGURES

USC has won seven consecutive games over Ohio State, including four regular-season games since their last Rose Bowl matchup. ... This is the first Cotton Bowl matching conference champs since New Year's Day 1987, when Big Ten co-champ Ohio State beat Southwest Conference winner Texas A&M. That is the only previous Cotton Bowl appearance by the Buckeyes. ... USC is also in its second Cotton Bowl. The Trojans beat Texas Tech on New Year's Day 1995. ... Ohio State is playing a Pac-12 opponent for the first time since beating Oregon 42-20 in the first championship game in the four-team playoff, in the same stadium as this week's Cotton Bowl.